Jan.6 committee penetrates Trump’s West Wing obstruction wall

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, told CNN’s “State of the Union” panel that the panel had “important testimony” that shows the White House was asked to “do something. As the crowd of Trump supporters ignited for his election. fantasies made their way to the Capitol. Vice President Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, told ABC News “firsthand testimony” that Trump’s daughter Ivanka, then West Wing adviser, twice asked her to intervene in a melee in which the police were beaten by his mob.

Thursday’s anniversary will revisit the horrors of the bombing, before which Trump had told his supporters to “fight like hell” to support his plot to steal power from Joe Biden in violation of the expressed will of the people in a democratic election.
And now the comments from the committee leadership shed new light on the motivation behind the ex-president’s quest to keep documentary evidence of his role a secret on January 6, which reached the U.S. Supreme Court. They also explain the refusal of many of Trump’s closest associates and henchmen to speak to the committee about what exactly he was doing in the Oval Office. It’s increasingly clear that these appearances could force them to choose between telling the truth under oath and crossing paths with their former boss, who still dominates the GOP. Two of those Trump allies – his former political guru Steve Bannon and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – have already received criminal contempt referrals from the Justice Department from the committee and across the board. from the room. Bannon will go on trial in July.

But the events of this week will also underscore that a year later, Trump’s enormous power over the GOP and the complicity of many of its key leaders in his fraudulent lies mean that America’s democracy is in greater trouble and in the throes of being hit. assaults wider than ever.

A broader picture of dereliction of duty

Thompson and Cheney’s comments will also fuel the growing impression that the committee, which conducted several hundred interviews, built a detailed behind-the-scenes picture of what happened inside Trump’s West Wing. on an infamous day in American history. Some of this evidence has already emerged in journalistic accounts of what happened during the insurgency. But the committee’s eventual final report would have the capacity to create a definitive record for history – and for future voters – on the truth about the attack.

There were further signs on Sunday that the committee was making inroads in seeking funding for the rally at the Ellipse in Washington, DC, which Trump addressed with his inflammatory lies about voter fraud on January 6. Thompson expressed concern over “the State of the Union” over the possibility of financial fraud in connection with the event.

“We have not made these concerns public at this point. But we think it is of great concern to us that people have raised money for an activity, and we cannot find the money spent on that activity. special, ”he said.

The president also notably refused to rule out the idea that the committee could take the extraordinary step of sacking Trump to the Justice Department. While it is not clear whether the entire committee would agree to such a move, it would raise the possibility that an administration’s attorney general is considering an indictment of the president of the previous White House, a conundrum. which could throw more oil on a political hell raging in this year of midterm elections.

“We don’t know… If there is anything that we come across as a committee that we think would warrant a referral to the Department of Justice, we will,” Thompson told Dana Bash. Cheney added on CBS that Trump was guilty of a “supreme dereliction of duty” and that the committee was looking to determine whether there was a need for “increased penalties” for such behavior, although she appeared to be referring to a legislation that would probably not be applicable. retrospective on Trump’s conduct.

“Not suitable for the office”

Cheney, however, warned that Trump’s conduct was so blatant that he should no longer be allowed to step closer to power, as the former president considers a potential new tilt in the White House in 2024.

“He is a man who has demonstrated that he is at war with the rule of law. He has demonstrated that he is ready to break down all the safeguards of democracy,” Cheney said on Sunday on “Face” the Nation ”from CBS News. “And he will never be able to be near the Oval Office again.”

On the face of it, the Commander-in-Chief’s refusal to intervene to stop an assault on the citadel of American democracy during Biden’s election certification process is a blatant violation of his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. .

But even a deeply damning report from the committee seems unlikely to break the dynamic of denial in the GOP over Trump’s transgressions.

In the year since the Capitol bombing, judges remind us of what it means to be American
A new poll, for example, from the Washington Post and the University of Maryland shows that only 27% of Republicans think the former president deserves “a lot” or “a lot” of blame for the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol. .

Data like this, which reflects a year of lies on the part of Trump and the conservative media, helps explain why the House GOP in particular has anchored its hopes of capturing a majority in the midterm election on loyalty to the House. former insurrectionary president. Apart from Cheney and the other Republican on the select committee, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, much of the Republican Conference is either participating in or encouraging the whitewashing of history.

Trump has already announced that he will give new impetus to a process that has convinced millions of grassroots supporters of the lie that he has been cheated from power and should still be president, with a press conference at his luxury club Mar-a-Lago in Florida Thursday. The ex-president plans to argue that the real insurgency took place in the November 2020 election – which Biden won in a free and fair vote – and not on January 6, even though the attack on Capitol Hill did took place before the eyes of the world and there is no evidence of electoral fraud in 2020.

“We want to check everything”

The committee dwells on what it says is the crucial 187 minutes between the start of the insurgency on Capitol Hill and Trump’s message to supporters to go home. Thompson hinted that there were signs the ex-president attempted to tape several previous messages, but his words apparently did not match the time sufficiently and were not released by the White House. This is one of the reasons the committee wants the Supreme Court to allow it to review documents, texts, emails and memos on which Biden has refused to assert executive privilege but which Trump does not want to be. delivered. After several previous reversals in court, the ex-president appealed on Christmas Eve to the conservative majority of the Supreme Court that he helped build.

“We have important testimony that leads us to believe the White House was ordered to do something,” Thompson told Bash on Sunday. “We want to verify all of this, so that when we produce our report and when we hold the hearings, the public has the opportunity to see for themselves.”

The President added: “The only thing I can say is that it is very unusual for someone in charge of anything to watch what is going on and not do anything.”

Cheney also weighed in on these pivotal moments, adding to the reporting in the books “I Alone Can Fix It” by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker and “Peril” by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

“We know her daughter – we have firsthand testimony that her daughter Ivanka came in at least twice to ask her ‘please stop this violence’,” Cheney told ABC News “This week “.

Cheney’s willingness to seek the truth of January 6, which sets her apart from many of her Republican colleagues in the House, saw her ostracized by her party. She has lost a leadership position at the Republican House Conference and is being challenged by a Trump-backed main challenger. But she still expressed hope on CBS on Sunday that a committee trashed by Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill could produce evidence with the power to change the minds of skeptics. She also had a challenge for her party, much of which has long chosen to protect Trump and ignore the truth for political purposes.

“Our party has to choose. We can either be loyal to Donald Trump or be loyal to the Constitution, but we cannot be both,” she said.